Our Educational Content is Not Meant or Intended for Medical Advice or Treatment
“Will drinking water help me lose weight?”
I’m asked this question over and over.
Yes, water has no calories nor carbohydrates (and it's the perfect drink if you're following a keto diet). It's also true that dehydration can cause you problems. So you definitely need enough water to support your health. But guzzling endless amounts of water isn't the perfect solution to dehydration - or weight loss, as it turns out.
It’s curious how certain weight loss themes take on such a life of their own that we treat them as gospel. But I recommend that you drill down to see whether or not a theme is credible and accurate.
Regarding whether you should consume more water for weight loss, let’s take a look at the facts.
The Facts About Drinking Water And Weight Loss
You may have heard that water will help fill you up and you’ll be less hungry.
It’s true; you’ll feel less hungry...for about a minute until you have to pee it all out!
Water doesn’t dissolve fat. The two don’t mix well. Thus, drinking water isn’t going to help you lose weight.
Let me be clear: I have nothing against water.
Obviously, water is important. Go by thirst. Keep adequately hydrated, especially when you exercise or are out in the heat.
Over-Hydration Is Dangerous
What I’m against is over-hydration, which is drinking far more than what your body is thirsty for. Be wary of declarations like, “Everyone needs a gallon of water a day,” because they’re just not true.
In fact, there’s a danger to drinking too much. Here’s what the danger is:
You could develop a condition called hyponatremia.
Hyponatremia refers to a lower-than-normal level of sodium in the blood. Sodium is essential for many body functions including the maintenance of fluid balance, regulation of blood pressure, and normal function of the nervous system.
If you’ve ever come across the term "water intoxication," that’s a common name for hyponatremia, especially when it’s caused by the consumption of excess water without adequate replacement of the sodium that gets flushed out.
Why Electrolytes Are Critical
But being depleted of sodium is only part of the story. When you drink too much water, you flush out many of the key electrolytes in additio to sodium, including potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
Doesn’t sound like a big deal, right? But it is.
Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals and compounds that help your body do much of its work - producing energy and contracting your muscles, for example.
Without sufficient electrolytes, one serious issue is that you lose electrical connectivity to the heart and have difficulty triggering the heart muscle to contract. Normally, with each contraction your blood is pumped throughout your body. The process begins in the upper chambers of the heart (atria), which pump blood into the lower chambers (ventricles). The ventricles then pump blood to your body and lungs. This coordinated action occurs because your heart is wired to send electrical signals that tell the chambers of your heart when to contract.
So, you see that being drastically low on electrolytes can be disastrous!
- Regulate the fluid levels in your blood plasma and your body
- Keep the pH of your blood in the normal range
- Enable muscle contractions in addition to the beating of your heart
- Transmit nerve signals from heart, muscle and nerve cells to other cells
- Help your blood to clot
- Help build new tissue
I bet you didn’t realize just how critical electrolytes are to keeping your body running smoothly!
You Could Cause Yourself Serious Health Issues
When you wind up drinnking so much water that your sodium level drops too low and you develop hyponatremia, you’re putting yourself at risk for a range of problems from relatively minor to drastic. For instance, the symptoms of hyponatremia include:
- Weak muscles
- Brain swelling
- Increased risk of death
Brain swelling and death?! What the heck?
It’s true. Here’s why:
When sodium levels in the body are low, water tends to enter your cells, causing them to swell. When this swelling occurs in the brain, it’s referred to as cerebral edema. Cerebral edema is particularly dangerous because the brain is confined in the skull without room for expansion, meaning the swelling can lead to brain damage and even death as the pressure increases within the skull.
Though cerebral edema occurs only in severe cases of hyponatremia, I want you to be aware of the risks - especially if you’re one of the people who tends to follow advice and take it to an extreme.
See Why You Don’t Need To Drink Large Amounts Of Water?
I’m aware that sometimes people feel angry when I point out how problematic too much water can be. They’ve been told for years that drinking lots of water is required for health. But I want you to ask yourself: where did you hear this? Who told you?
You owe it to yourself to access and validate information that’s essential for your health.
It’s become somewhat of an urban myth that you need to drink large amounts of water. Because my first priority is your health, I want you to be aware of the pitfalls of this common advice.
Particularly if you’re an athlete and you over-hydrate, you could put serious strain on your heart if your electrolyte levels fall low enough to prevent a regular, stable heartbeat.
I’m Not Opposed To Water
I’ll reiterate that I’m not against water. Just ensure you drink enough to slake your thirst. Add electrolytes to your water, to replace any you may be flushing out or sweating out.
The best way to gauge your water intake is to judge by your thirst. If you’re thirsty, drink! If not, reduce your consumption. Don’t force yourself to drink.
Please stay away from distilled water. Although it’s true that distilled water has impurities removed, minerals are also removed during the distillation process. When you drink distilled water you are further depleting yourself of vital minerals in addition to putting yourself at risk of hyponatremia if you over-hydrate.
And a note about sports and energy drinks: stay away from them. They’ll provide a tiny amount of sodium but they contain large amounts of high fructose corn syrup or straight sugar, which will deplete even more potassium from your body. Ironically, this will cause you to become even more dehydrated. They’re nothing more than expensive sugar water; don’t bother with them.
But do drink water when you’re thirsty!
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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.